Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey on Friday last week highlighted the Iowa Legislature's continued commitment to partnering with farmers to make significant long-term progress in protecting Iowa's soil and water resources. Before they adjourned on June 5 to go home for the year, state lawmakers approved $9.6 million to support the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The legislation now goes to Gov. Branstad and must be signed before going into effect.
"Farmers have greatly increased their financial commitment to improving water quality in recent years and I appreciate our state's leaders doing the same," says Northey. "Iowa is a model nationally for the progress that can be made on this important issue. These funds will allow us to continue to expand our water quality efforts and engage more Iowans in preserving and protecting water resources."
The 2015 Legislature provided $4.4 million for water quality in the Agriculture and Natural Resources appropriation bill (SF 494). In addition, $5.2 million was included in the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF budget, HF 650) and $450,000 of that amount will be allocated to the Nutrient Research Center for "nutrient water monitoring network technology and equipment."
State will continue to offer cost-share to farmers and landowners
The funds will allow the state ag department to continue to offer cost-share statewide to farmers trying new water quality practices. The funds will also allow the department to continue work in targeted watersheds to achieve measurable water quality improvements, expand urban conservation efforts, and develop new programs to help engage all Iowans in improving water quality.
The appropriation for the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship in the fiscal year beginning July 1 also includes $6.75 million for conservation cost-share. "For over four decades, Iowa's soil conservation cost-share program has encouraged the adoption of conservation structures such as terraces, grass waterways, buffers and other practices to protect and preserve our state's natural resources and improve water quality," says Northey.
Lawmakers provide $2.58 million to ISU for water quality programs
In addition, $1.92 million was also appropriated to the Iowa Department of Agriculture to support the closure of eight additional agriculture drainage wells in the state, another program to protect groundwater quality.
In addition to the funds approved for the state ag department for water quality, $1.35 million was provided to the Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University to evaluate the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices and help develop new practices. ISU also received a $1.23 million state appropriation for a three-year pilot project to work in partnership with agriculture retailers to quantify infield activities focused on improving water quality.
Here's the background on the Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters, says Northey. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address these issues.
The initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.
Farmers match state cost-share funding with their own money
"The Iowa Water Quality Initiative is seeing some exciting results," says Northey. "More than 1,600 farmers have invested $4.2 million to try a new practice on their farm to better protect water quality over the past two years."
State cost-share funds are currently available to farmers interested in using cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fertilizer. Any farmer not already using these practices will receive priority consideration for this cost-share assistance. Farmers can immediately submit applications through their local Soil and Water Conservation District office.
Targeted watershed demo projects have also been funded
In addition, 16 targeted Water Quality Initiative demonstration watershed projects have been funded to help implement and demonstrate water quality improvement practices. The state has provided $7.4 million in funding to support these projects and has leveraged an additional $11.7 million in additional funding from partners and landowners. More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects.
Nine Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects have also been funded. The state has awarded $655,194 in funding and partners and landowners participating in the projects will provide $2.43 million of their own money to support urban conservation efforts.
For more information about the Iowa Water Quality Initiative visit CleanWaterIowa.org.